Zohra Bensemra

Zohra Bensemra

Based
Algiers, Algeria
Born
Algiers, Algeria
Status
Photographer
Camera
Canon 5D Mark II
“The assignments that excite me the most are humanitarian pieces and stories related to people’s struggle for their citizenship and human rights against those who want to dominate them.”

Beat

I cover conflicts, humanitarian issues, and stories about women and politics.

One Shot

. MOLO, Kenya. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Anjeline Were Musikoyo mediates for peace between the Kalenjin and Kikuyu tribes in Kenya.
“I was in Kenya covering a conflict between the Kalenjin and Kikuyu tribes when I shot this picture. One of our contacts had called us and told us about a peace mediator going to meet both tribes after a fresh fight had broken out the night before. I was far from thinking that the mediator could be a woman. I watched her through my lens with admiration; she was talking courageously, her attitude impressed the warriors and they kept silent. I could feel both her strength and her sensitivity.”

Profile

When I was young, about 6 years old, one of my six brothers was an amateur photographer and I used to watch him as he took pictures. Later, I started to imitate him and I would take his cameras when he was out of the house. When he found out what I’d been doing he shouted at me, but then he offered me a small camera to use myself. I started to take pictures of my classmates at school and my love for photography grew.

I remember the first time in my life and in my career that I saw dead bodies. In 1995 there was a car bombing in the centre of the Algerian capital close to the police station. The station wasn’t far from the newspaper where I was working, and when I arrived I saw the body of a woman lying on the ground, completely burnt. When I saw her, I started crying and, in tears, began taking pictures. When I later went back to my newspaper, I was afraid to develop my film and I was still crying like a child while selecting the photographs. The next day I woke up as if I were another person, ready to face anything. From that day, I changed. I felt that I had become a photographer.

Tunisia was the assignment that left the biggest mark on me because I never dared to think that one day Tunisians would rise up against their ruler. I would never have imagined that a demonstration could happen in such a tightly controlled state. I reached Tunis on January 14, 2011, as a huge crowd gathered outside the interior ministry to demand that President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali step down. I was impressed by the number of protesters, and I was also impressed by their maturity; they were not there to vandalise the country, but to demand their right to freedom of expression.

My images are usually taken in countries suffering from internal conflict, be it social, economic, or humanitarian. When I take a picture, my first concern is to depict the event as it appears to me. I want to promote a better understanding of the conflict in order to push those who have power to improve the situation and find a solution to the problems.

The assignments that excite me the most are humanitarian pieces and stories related to people’s struggle for their citizenship and human rights against those who want to dominate them.

My biggest lesson as a female reporter is that it’s impossible to make a success of what we set out to do unless we are able to accept challenges.

Behind the Scenes

. Misrata, Libya. Mohamed Abbas
Zohra Bensemra walks through the damaged Tripoli Street in Misrata.
. Misrata, Libya. Mohamed Abbas
Zohra Bensemra stands in Tripoli Street, Misrata.